Paul Gallagher looking forward to locking horns with Joe Garner as Preston North End bid to build on encouraging point at Aston Villa
A familiar face is likely to return to Deepdale on Saturday and Paul Gallagher knows him better than most.
When Preston come up against Wigan North End fans are set to be faced with the unfamiliar sight of Joe Garner in Latics colours.
After leaving the Lilywhites for Rangers, Garner is back in the North West having departed Ipswich for the DW Stadium in August.
The PNE promotion hero’s highly successful spell with the club he supported as a boy saw him regularly link with Gallagher.
They are firm friends on and off the field, having both also come through the ranks at Blackburn.
But the North End midfielder knows that all goes out of the window when Alex Neil’s side look to haul themselves off the bottom of the Championship on Saturday.
“He’s a good friend of mine, I created a number of his goals so that’s probably why I’m one of his mates,” Gallagher said with a smile.
“We came through at Blackburn together as well so I’ve known him for a number of years.
“His kids are roughly the same age as mine so we’ve been on holiday together and things like that.
“Joe was a big hero with the fans here.
“The players, the staff, everyone really, took to him while he was here because of the character he was and the impact he had on the team.
“He scored quite a number of goals in the years he was here and obviously he’s a Preston fan as well so fitted in really well with the supporters.
“They were good days but those days have been and gone now.
“When we get together we always talk about them because we had such a good chemistry and got promoted.
“He’s moved on and we’ve moved on and we’re just looking to go out there and win the game.
“All friendships go out of the window when you cross that white line.”
It is Garner the player that North End will be focusing on should he lead the line for the Latics.
It will the job of some of his other former team-mates – Paul Huntington, Ben Davies and Tom Clarke – to keep him quiet.
Gallagher insists however there is more to Wigan than Garner, Paul Cook’s side ninth in the Championship after winning League One last year.
“You know what you’re going to get from Joe Garner,” said the 34-year-old.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s a nightmare to play against. He was even a nightmare in training!
“It’s going to be a difficult game.
“They’ve got a really good manager when you look at his record.
“The clubs he’s been at may be in the lower divisions but he’s managed to achieve a promotion with Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan.
“They’ve got a number of good players in their ranks but so have we.
“We’re at home and need to take the game to them and keep the back door closed to try and get the three points.”
Gallagher’s role is two-fold at the moment.
As well as a key figure on the field, his experience means he is trying to help some of the club’s younger players through arguably the toughest spell of their careers.
North End have not won in the league since the opening day and will be looking to enter the international break on a high against Wigan.
“We have a fairly young squad and a lot of them haven’t been in this position before,” said Gallagher.
“In recent years we’ve been in the middle of the table and last year we finished seventh.
“The younger players probably think, ‘This is where we should be’.
“But I’ve been here before and sometimes it is difficult.
“It’s about how you come back and the older lads are telling the young lads that you’ve just got to keep working hard.
“I’ve had a word with Brandon Barker and Lukas Nmecha and told them, ‘This is different from playing Under-23s football. This is men’s football, people’s livelihoods and supporters’ football clubs are on the line’.
“I think you’ve seen that with the reaction from some of the players with the work they’re putting in. Supporters appreciate that and so do the players, when everyone’s pulling together and working in the same direction it’s good.
“To be fair the boys here, they’re all hard-working lads.
“If you stick together you can come out of the other side and I’m sure with this team and the staff we’ll do that.”
That togetherness was in real evidence at Villa Park on Tuesday night, Gallagher scoring as PNE stormed back from 2-0 down to lead 3-2.
Yannick Bolasie then levelled things up for Aston Villa before North End needed a penalty save from Chris Maxwell to make sure of a point.
Gallagher is confident it is something to build on despite the late disappointment in the West Midlands.
“We believe we can keep going in the right direction,” he said.
“We need to keep hard working hard and playing with that passion, hunger and desire that shows we want to win.
“On Tuesday night I looked into the crowd I saw the passion on the faces of the supporters and I think they felt the passion from the players too.
“When we scored the third goal Chris Maxwell was up celebrating and Lukas Nmecha was in the crowd.
“That’s what supporters want to see from their team.
“Everyone here wants to win. No one wants to lose games.
“If you ask any of our family members, whether it’s their husband or boyfriend, they’ll tell you it’s not a nice place to be after a game.
“We’re looking forward to going out there on Saturday and trying to put on a good show.
“We need to put a full 90 minutes together.
“We’ve only played well in parts of games and haven’t done enough.
“We stuck our chests out on Tuesday night and showed great character to come back.
“Hopefully that is a turning point for us this season.”